Star Ocean Integrity and Faithlessness is not just another JRPG with a ridiculous subtitle. No…it’s actually the long awaited fifth instalment to the widely unappreciated series of the same name. An IP that has seen us roleplaying aficionados traverse multiple galaxies, time periods and even dimensions. All whilst slaughtering countless enemies in what is best described as high octane, action combat. Sounds fun right? Well that’s because the first four titles were exactly that…FUN! Star Ocean 5 however, and it pains me to say it, is an intergalactic let down.
As an individual whom had SO5 charting the top few of his most anticipated games for 2016, it truly saddens me to say how disappointing this title is. And yes a small percentage of this melancholy does stem from the fact that until now, I’ve held the series as a whole in high prestige. Though of course, critiquing a game on the foibles and merits of my own nostalgia deluded hype, would be grossly unfair. Thus with that being said, the fact that I’m still able to harbour legitimate grievance for this game, is testament to how bad it really is. And no, I don’t mean bad in the way of poorly coded mechanics or glitch filled characters and environments. For architecturally speaking SO5 is all there, in toe with what I can say are its few true accolades; gorgeously crisp visuals and for the most part lifelike animations. This however, upon the very backside of the scarce virtues that this game has to offer, is where its issues begin to mercilessly feed.
You see SO5 repeatedly, in near every aspect, suffers from giving the player a taste of what the game could and SHOULD have been. Right from the very beginning you’ll be thrown into an eye-catching environment at the combative helm of lead protagonist Fidel Camuze. A brief and fun tutorial scenario that ends with a seamless transition into world exploration. Seamless being the operative word, as that’s what SO5 so desperately tries to vaunt unto the player. A pseudo open-world, unfettered by distractions such as separate combat screens or over produced cinematics. An achievement which many games prior, liner or no have managed to attain. So why doesn’t it work here? What is it that’s holding SO5 back by such a degree? Well I’m here to say with a firm, but disheartened stance that the answer takes three forms: Mediocrity, lack of innovation, and lazy production. All of which help amount to the game’s greatest detriment; an ill execution of overall pacing that cripples immersive depth and the aforementioned, seamless design.
Combat will at first seem inviting with its flashy, real time action, but very quickly you’ll start to notice its hiccups. Almost every attack lacks impact or any real tactical prominence. And after changing the controlled character just once, you’ll realise there is very little incentive to do so again. Should you wish to regardless, after every excursion you’ll be forced back into the shoes of Fidel. Only to then enter another battle and be dissonantly thrown back over to the previous character’s control. Whom in some instances, is found to be outside the area of conflict forcing an impromptu escape. Pare all this with a dreadfully dizzying camera. (An issue that shouldn’t even exist 2016) And repetitious battle dialogue that constantly reminds you of how easy and pointless each fight is. And you have for a combat system, what is to the very definition of Mediocre. Only fitting then, that this subpar method of thrashing enemies would extend outside the arena and into character growth mechanics that perfectly example the game’s second most impairment. Its innovative lacking.
Here in a user interface, which to be fair is easily navigated and expressive of decently rendered illustrations, despite its layout being that of something more akin to the PS2 ear. The player will be able to undertake all the regular JRPG affair, equip and heal there combatants, etc. What SO5 at least thinks its doing differently, is providing each character with equable behavioural changes, under the name of ‘Roles’. Essentially these are buffs, stat-changes and or battle priorities that seeing use will increase in effectiveness and are meant to allow for more player customisation. The issue is that, at least in the latter’s case, they don’t. For as long as there is a healer in play, the Roles which undergo progression are entirely inconsequential. Moreover to make matters worse, it’s almost as though after implementation the game designers became aware of this. And so rather than reworking this mechanic, they just made it so the player would be forced into a situation where they have to constantly reselect these Roles, ergo falsely incentivising the equipping of new ones. An exceptionally aggravating process that is put into practice, nearly every time a party member leaves and returns the active group. An occurrence that should otherwise never be an issue.
And thus, we are left with SO5’s Lazy production value. Now earlier I had complemented the game’s stunning visuals, for although at times they do seem somewhat jarring with their unusual meld of anime and photorealism. SO5’s aesthetics are by far its most enjoyable aspect. Which is why throughout my play, I found myself wondering why there are so very few cut-scenes in which to show them off. No doubt to try and aid the seamlessness of which the game is wanting the player to feel. The more traditional cut-scene takes a back seat, being replaced for the narrative’s majority with dull interludes that merely expel exposition. An attempt to perhaps emulate the realism of actual conversation, it ultimately feels boring and uninspired. Thankfully the player is left in control of Fidel during these many scenes. Yet the prattling about you’ll be doing whilst in wait for the other characters to finish conversing, only serves to further dispel the player’s sense of immersion. This being the state of affairs, you might assume that perhaps the rare sum of cinematic events that do occur, come across as quite the welcome change of pace. And for the most part you’d be correct. As by the time one such event does transpire, the player is so starved of worthwhile engagement that virtually anything other than turning the game off will do. Even if those very scenes are horrifically mired by terrible voice acting and a visually offensive lack of localised lip-syncing.
Amalgamating all that I have discussed here with even more, all be it minor gripes. Such as an overabundance of side-missions that amount to nothing more than fetch quests. And a story that frankly, for what is supposed to complement that of a space opera, falls overwhelmingly short. Seeing the player trek across the same stretches of land in a mind numbing plateau of seemingly endless backtracking. And well, you’ve got Star Ocean Integrity and Faithlessness. A game that as an avid follower of the series and general lover of RPGs. I just feel, in the state that it does…shouldn’t exist. For with such, the damage has been done, we will likely never see another adventure into the great Star Ocean.
I would rate Star Ocean 5, a 4/10
Written by Louie Chudley